Hey Web Agencies, do you practice Social media listening?

If you propose social media listening to customers, you should be the first to use it right?
This week I’ve been in Milano for the IAB Forum, the “most authoritative event of the year on digital and interactive communication in Italy, attended by all industry players and promoted by IAB Italy – Interactive Advertising Bureau” as per their headline. Nice event, good presenters, happy to meet some old friends.

iabforumWhen arriving at the venue, I was looking for WiFi and I found the “IABFORUM2016” network… but I could not find the password. So I tweeted to see if someone from IAB (or someone of my acquaintances) would have been capable of providing it on the go.

Guess what? No answer at all from organizers, no answer at all from exhibitors, no answers at all from @IAB social media accounts. (A couple of my friends provided btw the password via private messages after some minutes, and I also discovered it was printed on the bottom of physical totems ath the entrance).

So, what’s the point? The point is that social media listening is no more an option for corporations, but it also cannot be an option during events. It must be linked to social CRM (bare minimum) for providing real time answers and off line follow-up, it should be linked to CRM systems and corporate customer database to enrich their profile and increase loyalty.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning can now manage several interactions with no need of human intervention (e.g. in my tweet, a BOT could have answered “Dear Max, WiFi password is ABCD1234”), in real time and scaling to thousands of users.

Funny to discover that Italian media agencies are not using social media during their main event. I’m sure you had someone in the office from one of those agencies in the last 24 months pitching for a social media listening tool. Next time, just ask what they use for themselves. Answers will be interesting for sure 🙂

The end of insurance as we know it

When I was a kid, car insurance mechanism was a sort of well-kept secret. I still remember my father going to the agent once a year, entering an old fashioned office (carpets, assistants, Ficus and that sort of things), waiting the boss to be free (sometimes 30-40′ minutes before being received), discussing all-but-about-his-driving-style for 10 minutes, get a quote out from a black box (a software on PC with a green phosphors display, at that time) and pay by a check. A sort of ceremony with no clue on how my father, his job, his history, his driving style (but accidents eventually happened in the last year), his maintenance book were influencing the final price.

Amazing, in a business mainly relying on historical data and the ability to associate a probability to a certain profile to a certain event.

That has of course changed a lot during the last decades but in a data-driven world, it’s gonna change even faster. Insurance business is definitively a data driven business: the more insurance company knows about you and your life (including acquaintances) the better personalized quote you get. And it’s a signalling game in the games theory, right? If you’re a good guy you might want to get a better pricing sharing information.

No surprise insurance telematics is booming: more data, more insights, better prices for those ones willing to share driving behavior and related data with the insurer. Better crash management, less frauds, better customer experience in case of an accident.

Let’s push it to the extreme. You post on Facebook about last weekend at the sea side or at the lake. Then you turn to Instagram to share some pictures of your kids. And then you tweet about your latest success in your job. In doing that, you created a digital profile of yourself.

When the day after you search for a new car insurance, the e-agent (don’t want to queue for 40′ in the old fashioned office right?) provides a personalized quote based on your digital footprint, no matter it’s first time you’re getting in touch with that company. And a bot is helping you to create your personalized quote on the go.

If you decide you’ll be a customer, your profile will be enriched more and more by data coming from your connected house, connected car, social engagement and the combination of all smart data collected by the cloud.

Digital transformation require Cloud Computing and Artificial Intelligence to be a fundamental part of insurance business: insurers will need to embrace digital as part of their core capability. Consumers are digital yet: mobile-first driven, used to digital touch points, always on. The need of new business models and capabilities from insurers is real: pay as you drive, pay how you drive, pay per per kilometer are just few examples of products the market will require, along with digital crash management which will ease life in case of an accident. If life is easy – and price is fair – with an insurance, why should you switch to a new one during the renewal?

Forget silos: smart home data could bring enormous value to car insurance, health monitoring from connected devices could be used to create a personalized retirement plan. Legacy systems are in my view dead: data should be always blended and used across the organization (including agents, employees and partners).

Data in the cloud are creating actionable insights bringing innovation (and thus new ways to do profit), impacting the entire value chain (and creating savings). A customer-centric approach will create more customer intimacy, along with new new personalized products and services.

Old-fashioned agents – the existing dealer network in many sectors is still a barrier to innovate, right? – will get more insights too. More insights will drive new business, more insights will create loyal customers (you don’t want to be in touch with the customer just once a yer in the most painful day… when he’s gonna pay the bill), more insights will allow to drive better decisions and, in the end, stay profitable.

Do you have examples of innovation in the “digital” insurance world? Would love to share ideas and best practices!

Selling cars on line is a good idea. Outsourcing it, definitively not.

Not a secret that digital transformation is happening. And not a secret that one of the slowest, most conservative, most closed industry in the world – yes, automotive – is being disrupted too. The (new) Ubers and Teslas are popping out every day, and automotive guys are now closer than ever to Silicon Valley (e.g. BMW is using San Francisco-based Ridecell to provide car sharing in the United States). Industry 4.0 (aka smart industry) is literally happening, data driven companies are shaping new products (and new plants) at an unprecedented speed and depth of knowledge.

Given customers are rapidly embracing a full digital life, the entire automotive value chain (from Tier1s to after sales managers) is undergoing a huge digital transformation process. Sales are not an exception. With big e-commerce guys eating the world, selling a car on line on these platforms instead of creating your own e-commerce might seem obvious. But it’s not.

What is the main reason customers are buying on line from e-commerce giants? Price is not the main one. Convenience is: ease-of-use, great customer experience, different stores for the same product (which is driving competition also) and greater variety of the same category (e.g. around 110.000 results for “screwer” on Amazon.it), great customer support in case something goes wrong, fast delivery.

Now, apply this to a car. On line customer experience might be easily replicated, several tools allow to create great e-commerce websites in weeks and without huge investments. Online sales are forecast by Frost&Sullivan to account for a quarter of the new car market by 2025 in mature markets, with around one third of motorists in Britain under the age of 35 – according to GFK Automotive – would buy a car online.

A car is a unique product, if you’re looking for a new red Fiat 500 with CNG engine you’re not interested in a new blu MINI Countryman with diesel engine. You probably are going to search for it on line before buying (and 80% are doing it, according to Google). You probably are going to get a test drive before signing a contract.

If you still need a dealer (we might argue that no, you don’t but given legacy and given the huge amount of sales driven by physical dealers today, I would say yes as a carmaker you still need a dealer to sell a car… unless you start your dealers network from the scratch), you will need to send the customer to that dealer, place the real order, do the paperwork, call bak customer for delivery, manage customers in workshops after the sale.

No fast delivery, no opportunity to sell the same product to the mass (I guess you’re all familiar with the tons of different options you’re given while ordering a car in Europe), no chance to service the product on line after the sale.

Given that scenario, I would then recommend to the OEs to go digital creating their own e-commerce channel. Why would you outsource to an commerce giant? The product is yours, you manage the dealer network, you want the car to be serviced into your workshops, you wanna own the customer, you control pricing, discounts, incentives.

Selling a car on another channel is not going to increase your pipeline (compared to having an internal e-commerce). It’s not going to create a price benefit to the customer (unless as an OE you decide to squeeze margins). It’s not going to create savings (the risk is creating overheads due to new processes). It’s not going to bring the product faster to the customer. It’s not going to create a better user experience. And it’s going to piss off the dealers network, unless you ‘just’ create more leads into their buildings (but that’s a lead, not an on line sale).

The only reason you might want to do it are tactical reasons: you need to create buzz (yes, being the first on Amazon or be the best seller on Alibaba might bring press articles) and you’re not ready to sell using your own e-commerce. Tactic can last some weeks, not months right?

So if you’re an OE and you’re looking to leverage digital for selling cars, just walk away from tactic and go all in for a full digital strategy: you will own the customer, you will own the product, you will own the data. Being the “Foxconn” of cars and loose customer ownership is not what you want to do.

ps: used cars market is a complete different story. More to follow…
(originally published on my LinkedIn profile)

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